May 3, 2022 Russia-Ukraine news

By Aditi Sangal, Meg Wagner, Adrienne Vogt, Maureen Chowdhury, Ben Church, Ed Upright, Sana Noor Haq, Jessie Yeung, Andrew Raine and Helen Regan, CNN

Updated 12:09 AM ET, Wed May 4, 2022
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5:57 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

President Biden asked the US Congress to loosen visa restrictions on highly educated Russians

From CNN's Natasha Bertrand

US President Joe Biden has asked the US Congress to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make it easier for highly educated Russians to obtain visas to work in the United States, according to a section of the White House’s Ukraine supplemental budget request submitted to lawmakers last week and reviewed by CNN.

The request, if enacted, would allow Russians with a masters or doctoral degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math to apply for a visa without first obtaining an employer sponsor in the US. 

The amendment would also require the Department of Homeland Security “to expedite consideration of such applications,” the document says, “as appropriate” and with the necessary vetting. 

The administration explained in the document that the authority “would help the U.S. attract and retain Russian STEM talent and undercut Russia’s innovative potential, benefitting U.S. national security.” The authority would expire four years after the date that it is enacted, according to the document. 

More context: Tens of thousands of highly educated Russians have reportedly fled Russia since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine just over two months ago. The Biden administration is hoping to take advantage of that brain drain and lure some of those workers to the US, officials said. 

The document says the visa changes would apply to Russians with degrees in fields including, but not limited to: hypersonics, advanced nuclear energy technologies, advanced missile propulsion technologies, directed energy, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and space technologies and systems.  

The US has already sought to curtail Russia’s ability to remain technologically competitive by imposing severe export restrictions on materials like semiconductors that are found in thousands of electronic products.

Bloomberg first reported that the administration was weighing loosening the visa restrictions.

5:48 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

As investigators probe war crimes in Bucha, Ukrainian families mourn the war's youngest victims 

From CNN's Sara Sidner, Sandi Sidhu, Oleksandra Titorova and Lauren Said-Moorhouse

Local prosecutor Roman Kravchenk says at least 31 children have been killed in Bucha.
Local prosecutor Roman Kravchenk says at least 31 children have been killed in Bucha. (CNN)

Deep in a pine forest in Ukraine’s Bucha district, a bumpy dirt road dead-ends in a small tidy cemetery. There, a figure dressed in black, her head covered with a scarf, hunches over a fresh mound of dirt blanketed in flowers and adorned with a picture of a small girl.

Her body begins to shake. Then her sobs pierce the quiet of the forest.

“I wish I could trade places with her,” says 68-year-old grandmother, Galina, from Vorzel, a small village in Ukraine’s Bucha district.

The grave holds the body of her seven-year-old granddaughter Anastasia, who was murdered as the family tried to escape the Russian invasion of their village. Galina says the pair — along with six more children and two other adults, all family members — had packed into a car and were driving down a two-lane highway when a Russian sniper fired at their vehicle from the woods.

“On the first strike, he shot through the front window and my granddaughter started to scream. The next shot our car stopped and then again, they shot at us. Anastasia whimpered,” Galina, who only gave CNN her first name, says. “I started to cry and children were scared. They were all screaming.”
Galina and her granddaughter Anastasia, in happier times.
Galina and her granddaughter Anastasia, in happier times. (CNN)

When the screaming and panic ended, sorrow washed over the family with the realization Anastasia had been shot dead. Her sister Lida, 11, was also badly wounded.

“I asked the soldier (to) help us. I was begging them saying, ‘Don’t you have kids of your own?’” Galina says.

“We did nothing to them. We lived our life. We didn’t attack anyone … It was them to attack us. They didn’t care if there was a kid or grandmothers or grandfathers. They didn’t care. And still don’t care,” she adds.

This scenario is exactly what the family was trying to escape. They were well aware of the Russian soldiers who had rolled into their village in March, snuffing out humans as casually as cigarettes and then leaving the bodies carelessly scattered along the sides of the roads.

The true scale of Russia’s monthlong occupation of Bucha is yet to be fully understood — but the picture emerging from it has shocked the world.

Russia has flatly refused to accept responsibility for the atrocities emanating from Bucha and other districts surrounding Kyiv since its troops made a hasty retreat in late March after failing to encircle the capital. Instead, the Kremlin has repeatedly claimed – without evidence — that the numerous reports of indiscriminate killings, mass graves, disappearances and looting are “fake” and part of a “planned media campaign.”

Read the full story here.

5:30 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Putin's war is tearing families apart in Ukraine's Russian-speaking east

From CNN's Mick Krever and Olha Konovalova

The warm spring air is coming to eastern Ukraine. The roads are lined with red tulips, and people are reopening their summer kitchens, small buildings outside traditional homes used to isolate the heat and smells of cooking in the hotter months.

It was in her elderly mother's wood-frame summer kitchen that Ludmilla, 69, was chatting to her brother Victor, 72, who went by Vitya, in the eastern city of Lysychansk last week. Despite near-constant bombardment from Russian troops just a few kilometers away, they had stayed in their family home since the invasion of Ukraine in late February.

"My brother and I were talking," said Ludmilla, who asked CNN to use only her first name out of privacy concerns. "All at once, Grads started falling down one by one." The windows were blown from their frames. "Everything was cracking."

She recalled the initial shock and confusion. "We're standing there — my brother's making the sign of the cross, and I'm shouting. I turned away from him to look at the house, and then another explosion went off, and I was trapped under the rubble."

Ludmilla was momentarily blinded. Blood poured from her face and from lacerations on her hands and feet, but she was alive. She felt the touch of a neighbor, who pulled her to safety, to her basement. Her 96-year-old mother, mercifully, was unscathed.

"I ask, 'How's my brother, how's Vitya?' And the neighbor hides his eyes and says: 'Everything is fine.'

"I said to him, 'Vova, I don't believe it. If it were okay, he would have come seen us.'

"He says, 'Everything is OK down, sit down,' and goes out. And his wife is sitting next to me and says 'Luda, he doesn't know how to tell you. Vitya is dead.'

"That's it. And my brother would be 73-years-old on May 6. And that was it."

Death and loss are far from the only traumas in this Russian-speaking region. For many, the war has upended any remaining fellowship with Russia. According to a survey last year by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 43% of Ukrainians report having relatives in Russia.

Even in the Russian-speaking east, that camaraderie had already been waning since Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatist movements. With this war, a history of pain is brought to the fore: of millions dead from famine and forced Soviet collectivization and of attempts, over decades, to wipe out Ukrainian culture and the Ukrainian language.

It's hard to relate to someone if they believe Russian President Vladimir Putin's propaganda — that the military is conducting a small and targeted operation that avoids civilian casualties. It's perhaps, even more difficult to relate if they don't believe your neighbors, brothers, and friends are being killed.

Ludmilla's son, as well as her sister and her sister's family, all live in Russia.

"My granddaughter had a fight with my own sister's granddaughter," Ludmilla explained. "She said, 'What are you making up? You are shooting at yourself, and you are lying,'" adding that a "lot of people" in Russia don't believe what's really happening in her country.

"This is Putin's politics. Zombification," Ludmilla said.

Whether Russia can conquer all of the Donbas — the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk — is an unanswered question after its military's underwhelming performance in the war's opening months.

Read the full story here.

5:11 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

It's after midnight in Kyiv. Here's what you need to know

From CNN Staff

Ukrainian officials reported missile attacks in several parts of the country on Tuesday.

Several of the targets in the missile strikes appear to have been related to the transport of military equipment into Ukraine. Russia has threatened to target shipments of weapons and their routes. 

Two missiles flying over the southwestern Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia were shot down, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry.

Serhiy Borzov, head of the Vinnytsia region military administration, said two blasts that Vinnytsia residents heard "were our air defenses." A search is underway for the wreckage the missiles.

Gerashchenko said another cruise missile was just shot down by air defenses "on its way to Kyiv" in the area of ​​the Odesa highway. The mayor of Dolynska, a town in the central Kirovohrad region, said there had been missile strikes in the area but gave no further details.

Further west, close to the Slovakian border, the head of the Zakarpattia Regional Military Administration, Viktor Mykyta, said there had been a missile strike in the mountainous region. "We are clarifying the information on injuries and possible victims," he said.

In Lviv, Maksym Kozynskyi, the head of the Regional Military Administration, said three power substations had been damaged. Separately, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, said a border area in the region of Sumy in the far northeast of the country had been struck with multiple rocket launchers and mortars.

The chairman of Ukrainian railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said that Russian missiles had struck six locations along lines in central and western Ukraine on Tuesday evening.

Here's are look at the latest headlines from the Russia-Ukraine war:

  • Biden administration says it won't allow Russia to "co-opt" Victory in Europe Day: White House National Security Council senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat told CNN Tuesday the Biden administration does not want to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to “co-opt” Monday’s Victory Day by tying it to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The first thing that I would say is Victory in Europe Day is not something that belongs to Russia alone, and the holiday is going to be celebrated across Europe on May 8 and May 9 to commemorate the day when unified efforts came together to defeat Nazi Germany at the end of World War II — that included the United States, many of our European allies, as well as the former Soviet Union, including both Russians and Ukrainians,” Sloat told CNN’s Victor Blackwell. “So, this is a broader holiday that we should not let be co-opted by President Putin on the 9th.”
  • The UN says 127 people arrived in Zaporizhzhia from areas in Mariupol: A total of 127 people have arrived in Zaporizhzhia from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and surrounding area following an evacuation corridor effort, according to a written statement from UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Osnat Lubrani on Tuesday. A total of 101 people, including "women, men, children, and older persons," were evacuated from the steel plant while another 58 joined from Manhush, a town outside of Mariupol, according to Lubrani. "Some evacuees decided not to proceed towards Zaporizhzhia with the convoy," Lubrani added in the statement.
  • At least 290 civilian bodies found in Irpin since Russian withdrawal: The bodies of 290 civilians have been recovered in the town of Irpin, outside of Kyiv, since the withdrawal of Russian forces, Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushin said Tuesday. In a statement on Facebook, Markushin said 185 of the dead have been identified, the majority of whom were men. The cause of death was “shrapnel and gunshot wounds.” According to Markushin, at least five of the dead suffered brain injuries and starvation. Five residents were shot dead in the yard of a high-rise building and at the premises of a children's development center.
  • Russian forces deported almost 40,000 people from Mariupol to Russia, Ukrainian official says: Russian forces deported almost 40,000 people from Mariupol to Russia or the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said during a briefing at the Ukraine-Ukrinform media center on Tuesday. "We have already verified the lists of those who were deported from Mariupol to Russia or the so-called DPR. Almost 40,000 people. Now they have begun to hide these lists. Unfortunately, we are not able to verify everything at the moment, but we are continuing the work," said Boichenko. 
  • Ukraine invasion threatens to undermine stability throughout world, not just in Europe, top US general says: United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the world is witnessing "the greatest threat to peace and security of Europe and perhaps the world” in decades due to the invasion of Ukraine. “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is threatening to undermine not only European peace and stability, but global peace and stability that my parents and generations of Americans fought so hard to defend,” Milley said. He added that the US is “at a very critical and historic geo-strategic inflection point,” where the US military must “maintain readiness and modernize for the future” at the same time.
  • Long lines form at gas stations due to fuel shortages in Kyiv: Many gas stations across the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv are closed due to the lack of fuel in the country. Those stations that do remain open have long lines of cars waiting outside in snaking lines, with the average wait time at least an hour. “This is not normal. I spend more time thinking about how to find fuel than I spend trying to find customers," a local taxi driver told CNN.
  • US State Department now classifies WNBA player Brittney Griner as "wrongfully detained" in Russia: The US State Department has now classified WNBA player Brittney Griner as wrongfully detained in Russia and her case is now being handled by the office of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA) Roger Carstens, a State Department official confirms to CNN. The SPEHA office leads and coordinates the government's diplomatic efforts aimed at securing the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad. They played a major role in securing the release of American Trevor Reed from Russia last week
5:06 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

President Biden touts US support for Ukraine as he thanks employees helping with Javelin production

From CNN's Betsy Klein

President Biden shakes hands with an employee at Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility in Troy, Alabama, on Tuesday.
President Biden shakes hands with an employee at Lockheed Martin’s manufacturing facility in Troy, Alabama, on Tuesday. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Joe Biden traveled to a Lockheed Martin manufacturing facility in Troy, Alabama, Tuesday to tout US efforts to support Ukraine as he thanked the hundreds of employees at the plant where the Javelins the US is providing to Ukraine are finished.

Biden cast the Lockheed workers as central to the fight for democracy.

“I wanted to come down to Alabama to make sure that the American people know… the work that this facility is doing in support of Ukraine’s fight for freedom,” he said, adding, “I came to say thank you, thank you, thank you.” 

Citing his time visiting Iraq and Afghanistan as a senator and vice president, he said he has “been in those battlefields where those missiles are fired,” and the employees here are making a “gigantic difference” and are “changing people’s lives” through their work assembling this weaponry.

“It’s amazing what you’ve done,” he said, pointing to the “gut-wrenching” atrocities committed by Russia and the “incredible bravery” of Ukrainians.

The US is “leading” efforts, he said, to help Ukrainians defend themselves amid Russia’s ongoing assault and war crimes, and the work of American Lockheed Martin employees makes that possible. And in many instances, he later added, they are “making fools of the Russian military.”

The President said this is an “inflection point in history,” referencing his belief that the world is in a battle between autocracies and democracies, a central tenant of his presidency.

The Lockheed Martin employees, he said, are in the “first, really, battle” to determine whether democracy can succeed.

He touted other weaponry, equipment, and resources the US has sent to Ukraine, noting the US has sent more than $3 billion over the past two months in security assistance, a “direct investment in defending freedom and democracy itself.”

Efforts on the frontlines of democracy in these roles is also good for the American economy, citing the jobs Lockheed Martin and others have created, he said.

“Every worker in this facility and every American taxpayer is directly contributing to the case for freedom, and that’s something we can all be proud of,” Biden said.

Biden called on Congress to “quickly” pass the $33 billion military, economic, and humanitarian aid package he submitted last week. And citing the role of semiconductors in the Javelin production process, he also called for the swift passage of the bipartisan innovation act, which will help produce more chips, along with other provisions – highlighting its bipartisan support.

Semiconductors are “critical” to defense production capacity, he said, adding that the bill and issue “unites” both Democrats and Republicans. He also suggested that the Chinese Communist Party is lobbying lawmakers to vote against it, calling the bill a national security imperative.

4:09 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

District on the river Dnieper among several regions targeted in Ukraine missile strikes

From CNN's Tim Lister

Valentyn Reznichenko, head of Dnipropetrovsk Regional Military Administration, said there had been two missile strikes in the district of Kamianske on the river Dnieper. 

"We have two hits in the Kamianske district. The missiles severely damaged the railway infrastructure."

One person was injured, Reznichenko said, and the movement of trains was stopped.

The mayor of Lviv in the west said two people had been injured in the missile strikes there, which had also affected water supplies.

The Ukrainian military in the south confirmed that the railway infrastructure in Kirovohrad region had been hit and said that "unfortunately there are dead and wounded."

Three more missiles aimed at the Odesa region were shot down by air defense forces, it said. 

3:48 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Several regions in Ukraine targeted by missile strikes, officials say

From CNN's Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Smoke rises from a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on May 3.
Smoke rises from a missile strike in Lviv, Ukraine, on May 3. (Vladyslav Sodel/Reuters)

Ukrainian officials have reported missile attacks in several parts of the country.

Two missiles flying over the southwestern Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia were shot down, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry.

Serhiy Borzov, head of the Vinnytsia region military administration, said two blasts that Vinnytsia residents heard "were our air defenses." A search is underway for the wreckage the missiles.

Gerashchenko said another cruise missile was just shot down by air defenses "on its way to Kyiv" in the area of ​​the Odesa highway.

The mayor of Dolynska, a town in the central Kirovohrad region, said there had been missile strikes in the area but gave no further details.

Further west, close to the Slovakian border, the head of the Zakarpattia Regional Military Administration, Viktor Mykyta, said there had been a missile strike in the mountainous region. "We are clarifying the information on injuries and possible victims," he said.

Several of the targets in Tuesday's missile strikes appear to have been related to the transport of military equipment into Ukraine. Russia has threatened to target shipments of weapons and their routes. 

In Lviv, Maksym Kozynskyi, the head of the Regional Military Administration, said three power substations had been damaged. 

Separately, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, said a border area in the region of Sumy in the far northeast of the country had been struck with multiple rocket launchers and mortars.

The chairman of Ukrainian railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin, said that Russian missiles had struck six locations along lines in central and western Ukraine on Tuesday evening.

He said there were no casualties among staff or passengers.

At least 14 passenger trains were held up, he said, and the damage to infrastructure damage was severe.

CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko contributed reporting to this post.

3:28 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

US national security official: Biden administration won't allow Russia to "co-opt" Victory in Europe Day

From CNN's DJ Judd

White House National Security Council senior director for Europe Amanda Sloat told CNN Tuesday the Biden administration does not want to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to “co-opt” Monday’s Victory Day by tying it to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The first thing that I would say is Victory in Europe Day is not something that belongs to Russia alone, and the holiday is going to be celebrated across Europe on May 8 and May 9 to commemorate the day when unified efforts came together to defeat Nazi Germany at the end of World War II — that included the United States, many of our European allies, as well as the former Soviet Union, including both Russians and Ukrainians,” Sloat told CNN’s Victor Blackwell. “So, this is a broader holiday that we should not let be co-opted by President Putin on the 9th.”

She declined to weigh in on intelligence indicating Putin may use the holiday to rally support for his invasion of Ukraine, including possible steps to formally declare war on its neighbor or annex the Donbas and Luhansk regions, telling CNN, “I’m not going to speculate about what Putin might do, but it’s very clear that he’s already launched an unjustified and unprovoked aggression against Ukraine, and our position on May 9 is going to be the same as it’s been every day for the last two and a half months, which is going to continue giving Ukraine the security assistance it needs to defend itself.”

Sloat also pointed to US President Joe Biden’s trip to Troy, Alabama today, where he’s highlighting the security aid the administration has provided to Ukraine.

“President Biden currently is in Alabama, speaking to workers at a Javelin factory, which is one of the key elements of security assistance that we have given,” she said. “The president sent a supplemental request to Congress last week asking for funding to continue providing security assistance, and that's what our strategy has been, and that's what our strategy is going to remain going forward, which is giving the tools to enable Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression."

3:23 p.m. ET, May 3, 2022

Azovstal evacuees describe how they survived inside the plant and what they saw

From CNN's Denis Lapin and Maryna Marykhnych in Zaporizhzhia and Julia Presniakova in Lviv

Some of the evacuees from the Azovstal steel plant have been speaking about their experiences after arriving in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia.

Elina Tsybulchenko, a former employee at the plant, says she was in a bunker there from March 2 until May 1 with her family.

They'd survived on soup and tinned food and unsweetened tea — but not much of it, she said.

She told CNN that when they left, there were still 42 people left in their bunker. "Only civilians, we did not have any military in the bunker. 'Because if we are in the bunker, you will be in danger' — the military said," according to Elina. 

Speaking of the bombing, she said: "I never thought the earth could shake like that. It didn't just shake. The bunker jumped and trembled."

CNN asked Tsybulchenko why she had chosen not to go to Russia or the self-declared Donetsk People's Republic. 

"Because I am Ukrainian, and my homeland is in Ukraine, and not in Russia and not in the DPR," she said. "Mariupol was my city, but now it is gone, there is nothing."

She said she had lost precious family heirlooms, such as a traditional embroidered costume which was 150 years old.

"It survived the Holodomor (the mass starvation of Ukraine by Stalin in the 1930s), deportation, World War I, World War II, even the Nazis did not destroy it. And the fascists did not destroy Mariupol. But the Russians came and destroyed it," she told CNN.

The family had three apartments, she said. "And it all burned down, everything burned down."

She said that after leaving, they spent a night in a Russian filtration center in Bezimenne village.

On the way to Zaporizhzhia, she said she started to cry when she saw the Ukrainian flag.

Tsybulchenko noted that now she just wants to wash and have clean underwear. 

Sergey Kuzmenko, also an employee of Azovstal, was there from March 8. He said that in April the soldiers at the plant had managed to get cereals and canned food into the plant every few days.

"People rot in basements," he said. "So that you understand, (there are) 2 to 3 flights of stairs to the basement, there is dampness, there is no ventilation for 60 and more days there."

"At the beginning of the war, the plant had 36 bomb shelters. But at the moment there are only a few left," he said. He described how a two-story building was demolished by one bomb,

He said as they left they saw that two floors of their bunker were full of badly wounded soldiers. 

Kuzmenko told CNN that Russian troops had searched through all his belongings after he was evacuated and he was examined for tattoos. "They offered options to return to Zaporizhzhia, or go to Russia or stay in the DPR. Some stayed in Russia. They didn't force them," he said.

Kuzmenko described a tortuous journey with many stops and detours. He said the passengers were aware that hundreds of people they passed could not join the convoy, including about 500 waiting at a shopping center outside Mariupol and at villages along the way.

He said he was really looking forward to shaving for the first time in more than two months. 

Many of the evacuees seemed overwhelmed, exhausted, pale and thin, but also relieved to be safe. Some of the children seemed to be ravenously hungry.